Once again, thank you Jimahl for agreeing to this interview. It is appreciated.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Interview- Jimahl di Fiosa
I’d like to thank Jimahl di Fiosa (thanks) for his willingness to indulge my curiosity byway of this interview where his three books (four really), the overarching story, and some completely random but not altogether off topic questions have been presented and answered.
Jimahl di Fiosa is a respected Elder and High Priest of Alexandrian witchcraft, having been initiated into the Craft in 1988. His interest in the occult spans many years, and most likely, many lifetimes as well.
Jimahl is also the author of the popular book TALK TO ME, When the Dead Speak with the Living, a practical guide to spirit communication. Having been introduced to the world of spirits as a young boy, Jimahl enjoys sharing his life among the spirits with others through speaking engagements and workshops.
“Early on in life I became a somewhat reluctant ambassador between the world of the living and the world of the dead,” Jimahl recently told an interviewer. “I resisted this reality for most of my adult life but have finally come to realize that the dead, like the living, deserve an opportunity to set the record straight once in a while.”
Jimahl's interest in the occult spans many years. He has devoted his spiritual path to exploring the mysteries of the Goddess and to the preservation of the Craft for future generations.
Jimahl recently returned from a series of interviews and speaking engagements in Brazil, where his books are enjoying a second printing in the Portuguese language.
Jimahl resides in New England with his husband Karagan and their two very happy cats named Storm and Charlie.
First of all, compliments to your father for the depth and variety of his book collection. When I was a teenager, my own father was much more focused on subscriptions to Field and Stream and Guns and Ammo than esoteric titles.
Secondly, you are perfectly correct in your assumption as to the catalyst for A Voice in the Forest. I had no intention of writing a book at the time, although I had been documenting this extraordinary experience from day one because I felt it was an immensely important work. There were so many reasons not to write the book - the confidence of those involved chief among them. A secondary de-motivator for me personally was the very real possibility of ridicule among my peers. As immediate as the experience was for me, I also realized how absurd the idea of communicating with the spirit of long dead Alex Sanders would most likely seem to the rest of the world. However, as time went on - and the communications themselves intensified in scope and depth-I sensed a greater message begin to emerge. Surprisingly, it had little to do with Alex Sanders. There was so much more there and I knew that Alex’s messages from beyond held much more universal truths.
In retrospect of course, I realized that the book had to be written. It was like flood water overreaching the banks - there was no way to hold it back. Years later, while researching A Coin for the Ferryman, I found this entry in Alex’s private journal. Let’s just say, I can relate.
“I had to do something because I couldn’t refuse. I couldn’t refuse because no one else in the world could do what I could do and a job had to be done.”
If truth be told, though I find contact with any of the Mighty Dead, and Alex in particular, to be fascinating, this was not what stood out to me as spectacular about this book; it was the slight peek into the workings of a functioning Alexandrian Coven, which I don’t believe has been written about much in the past couple of decades. Did you have much difficulty balancing telling the story and not telling too much?
You’re right. Many of the reviews of the book focused on the same aspect. No one was prepared to agree that the book represented genuine contact with Alex Sanders (although everyone had an opinion) but this rare glimpse into how a coven works (Alexandrian or not) seemed to be a welcome by-product of telling the story. I have to jump back a bit and make it clear that, with very few exceptions, most of the people who shared this experience with me were less than enthusiastic about me writing the book. This was their story as well and most preferred to keep it private. In some cases, polite indifference turned to animosity and the sacrifice of a few long term relationships became collateral damage. In the end, the compromise was that I would change names, personal details, and descriptions of places and events to protect anonymity.
With regard to telling the story but not giving too much away in the process, I found this balance fairly easily. The rituals described in the book are all real - particularly the Rite of Necromancy which still gives readers nightmares- yet I never once compromised material that traditional witches consider to be “oath bound.”
Up until this point I have only briefly mentioned the purpose behind this book; a telling of contact with Alex. Certainly you have had your share of skeptics, as is the case with any form of spirit communication; at what point did you know that this was a real contact through the veil to Alex and that this was not something that could be kept behind the shroud of secrecy that allows the intimacy at the center of traditional crafting?
There was never a moment when I didn’t believe - in the innermost corner of either my heart or mind - that the experience wasn’t real. Still, I made friends with the worst case scenario up front - I expected to be laughed at, ridiculed, and to a large extent ostracized from the worldwide Craft community. None of that mattered to be personally. I committed early on to telling the truth, despite the opposition, and those who know me well, will tell you that I never back down from a commitment. So I charged ahead - focusing on getting the story out there. The skeptics did not disappoint, but to my delight there were much fewer of them than I anticipated.
After the book had been out for nearly a year, a friend asked me if I had sent a copy to Maxine Sanders. Maxine, of course, was married to Alex for many years and is considered by many to be an expert on traditional witchcraft, as well as the world’s leading authority on the Alexandrian tradition. The truth was that I hadn’t sent her the book because I was terrified as to what she would think. So my friend (meaning well, I suppose) sent her off a copy behind my back. Her response shocked me, as much as it did the remainder of the skeptics. In an interview with a well-regarded pagan publication she said “I was sent a book from America called A Voice in the Forest. I was prepared to be skeptical, as there have been so many false contacts with Alex. I worked with Alex in mediumistic circles for many years and knew his techniques well. The contact described within the book was so obviously true it gave me goose bumps.” Many years later I would meet Maxine when we were both booked as guest speakers at a large pagan gathering. We hit it off immediately and have been friends ever since.
Later I would discover that Alex, clever man that he was, left tiny clues for friends and family sprinkled throughout the documented communications in the book. At the time I transcribed the spirit communication sessions these tidbits seemed so out of context that I nearly edited them out of the final manuscript. Thankfully, I left them in and it was through these clues that many of those who knew him personally were able to validate the work.
Your second book, All the King’s Children, in a way feels like an extension, and yet completely separated from A Voice in the Forest. Are the two connected purposely or is it incidental that any correlation exists?
All the King’s Children was meant to be a companion piece to the first book and a tribute to people everywhere (regardless of how we define religion or deity) who, like Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, still reach out against all odds in hopes of touching the hand of the divine. We never really get there but we will all die trying. The fact that the 16 wonderful people interviewed in the book are Alexandrian witches is secondary to the fact that they are human beings who refuse to settle for a life devoid of faith. Their individual stories are as inspiring as they are heart breaking. These are people who know their heart and will not be broken. Alex, again, is the common thread that binds the individual stories together. But ultimately, each voice stands alone, and the stories told embody universal themes such as love, loss, hope, and triumph over adversity.
The title is an obvious elusion to Alex and the Alexandrian Tradition given title, “King of the Witches.” It is a title that over the years has been the topic of much debate; would you weigh-in briefly with your thoughts on the subject?
I write about his in detail in A Coin for the Ferryman. The chapter is called, rather tongue-in-cheek The King Business. The simple fact is that the title is very real, but it is not something that Alex took upon himself. It was an honorary title given to him by his witches.
The beauty that I found when reading this book was the spectrum of stark differences that exists between the various Alexandrian Initiates, many who have never met, and yet they all have a common Craft that brings them together; which I am sure is the point. Correct me if I am wrong. Why write a book about practitioners of only one Tradition of Witchcraft? Doesn’t this limit your audience to only those interested in learning more about the Alexandrian Priesthood?
I think I touched on this theme earlier in this interview. The short answer is that I write about what I know, but at the same time, I remain very aware that, aside from serving as a kind of springboard for storytelling, the specific spirituality of those interviewed in All the King’s Children is not as important as the life experiences they so freely share. My hope is that followers of other traditions will follow the trail I’ve blazed and put out similar compilations.
I find the wit of the titles of these books to been evocative and thought provoking, especially so with the third, A Coin for the Ferryman. Whereas I have my own thoughts on the matter, how exactly is the third book a coin for the ferryman?
A Coin in the Ferryman provides an exceedingly different view of Alex than the much earlier work, King of the Witches: World of Alex Sanders, by June Johns. How would you describe the relationship between these two view points?
The two books really are polar opposites. It is helpful to keep in mind that the June Johns book was not the objective piece of journalism people might imagine. It was a vanity piece, engineered by Alex to generate publicity. It succeeded on a large scale and is still regarded, by today’s relaxed standards, as controversial. But it tells only one side of the story - that being the rather remarkable story of a magician who would become “King of the Witches.” The other consideration is that Alex was barely 40 years old at the time. He lived another 20+ years. As well intentioned as the early work may have been, it tells only a partial story of a man’s life.
I remember the genesis of Coin very clearly - I told Maxine that I felt very strongly that Alex needed a “proper biography” and that a lot had happened since “June Johns dropped by”. Her response was very matter- of -fact. She said “what do you wish to accomplish?” My response was “to show the man behind the myth - a man who was not a demon or a saint, but a man of flesh and blood.”
I hope that I have, in some small way, succeeded.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that at the time that contact was first made with Alex, that such contact with him wasn’t the goal, but that in the end he was the spirit that came knocking at the door that had been set up. Do you have any thought you’d like to share as to your reasoning on perhaps why Alex picked your coven out of all the available mediums through which to communicate?
I don’t know, frankly. Perhaps because we were the first group of people to inadvertently provide an available outlet for him. Remember that when the communication first began, Alex had been dead for ten years. As much as one may care for their beloved dead, the sad fact is that they are often relegated to the history books once the funeral is over. If we accept the premise that Alex’s spirit remained earthbound for over a decade because his work was unfinished, it must have been quite a relief for him to hear someone finally call out his name. I honestly think he would have responded to the plumber at that point. I did find it funny when I received an irate letter from a well-known UK witch who was angry that Alex had communicated with an American witch rather than a British one.
Your latest book gives a lot of details not otherwise privy to the public eye. I am sure it took a substantial amount of energy to collect and organize everything. Was there anything in particular that got left out, due to the desired volume size, just didn’t fit, or other, that you would have liked to have been able to include?
Due to the scope of the project, and despite my generally unflagging optimism, once I got started it didn’t seem possible that I would be able to finish the book. For one thing, I couldn’t afford to approach the research in the most obvious way - which would have been to travel to England and spend a lot of time digging through archives. Fortunately for me, I was able to use the wonderful tools of the 21st century to my advantage. Interviews with those who knew Alex intimately, hours and hours of them, were completed by phone and recorded for editing/transcription purposes. The Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall threw open their archives to me - in many cases bringing in volunteers to sift through and scan hundreds of Alex related documents that had until then never been seen. The deeper I got into the preliminary work on the book, the more I realized that the universe was conspiring to help me. This was a humbling experience and I am truly grateful.
Regarding the scope of the material, I was saddened when a few people who knew Alex personally refused to speak with me. They made it clear that they didn’t respect me as a writer, my work, or my attempt to “set the record straight.” I didn’t know what to make of this at the time, and still don’t. Perhaps Alex inspired a sense of ownership in those whose lives he touched so deeply. Perhaps they felt that if they “shared” him with me, they would lose those memories in some way. I’m sure I’m being overly gracious to them even now. It could just be that they are thoughtless and envious people.
You’ve written three books on closely related topics. Are there any more projects forth coming or will we just have to wait and see?
When the third “Alex book” was published, Maxine Sanders predicted I would that I would write “four more books.” Nothing against Alex, but if this is true I would like the books to focus on other subject matter. Just like everyone else, I have my own story to tell.
Speaking of books you have written, I believe that you have a fourth book, Talk To Me: When The Dead Speak To The Living, though specifically not Alex related it is in regards to spirit communication, which started the whole journey to begin with. As it is the only book you’ve written that I haven’t read, could you offer a brief plug to wet the appetite and give me, and the readers, an idea of what treasures lay therein?
Oddly enough, this very modest book (just over 100 pages) outsells all of the Alex books 10-1. It’s basically a how-to type manual for communicating with the dead that anyone can pick up and put to immediate use. I wrote the book in response to the many emails and letters I received after “A Voice in the Forest” was published. As much of a character that Alex was, people wanted to know if it was possible for them to communicate with their own departed loved ones. And assuming so, how best to get the job done. In “Talk to Me” I share my life experiences as a medium and my personal thoughts on the afterlife. In the end, I leave people to their own conclusions, but stand by my belief that “the greatest mystery surrounding spirit communication is that there is no mystery.” Anyone can communicate with the dead as easily as they speak with the living. What they do with that ability is completely up to them.
If there was only one thing you could tell the world about Alex Sanders, what would it be?
I think Alex sums it up nicely in one of the spirit communications - “I was a man and men die all the time.” A remarkable man, no doubt, but still as mortal as the rest of us.
Wicca is classified as a New Religious Movement by Religious Studies scholars. The classic understanding of which is the enamoration of a charismatic leader around which the practitioners follow. In your opinion, was this the case with Alex? Or was the relationship between founder and subsequent Witches more complex? If so, how?
It’s too easy to look back and see a well-worn path where once there was none. In the beginning, Alex was just living his life and following his heart. He never intended to be a leader, charismatic or otherwise. In fact, the opposite is true. He did whatever he could, whenever he could, to get off the pedestal everyone kept insisting he stand upon. I truly believe this is why he often went out of his way to shake up the status quo. If he was (as many wish him to be) the beginning and the end of all that defines the Alexandrian “tradition,” the tradition would have died when he died. The fact is, it didn’t. His legacy continues today with thousands of Witches around the world continuing the work he started so many years ago. But these people are following their own vision - not his - and this vision is continually redefined and renewed with each new generation.
Despite the hype, the controversy, and the “love him or hate him” attitudes, Alex knew that we all share the same common ground. It’s what we each choose to do with the time we have on the earth plane that matters.
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”